Injured firefighter set to return to work

By LEA RIZZO, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 4/5/17

Wes Clark, a Sumiton firefighter injured in a deadly house fire in February, is looking forward to being able to return to work in the next two weeks.

Clark …

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Injured firefighter set to return to work


Wes Clark, a Sumiton firefighter injured in a deadly house fire in February, is looking forward to being able to return to work in the next two weeks.

Clark suffered third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body and spent close to a month in the hospital.

The night of the Feb. 14 fire on Whitlow Road, Clark was at Walmart in Sumiton when his pager went off, notifying him of the fire. After getting the fire engine from the fire station, Clark pulled up on scene and entered the house.

“I remember hearing them say somebody’s in the house,” he said. “Once I made entry, I realized something didn’t look right. So I turned around and at that point, I fell through the floor.”

The roof also collapsed on him. According to Sumiton Fire Chief David Waid, the wall where the roof collapsed is what flashed on Clark and caused the majority of his burns.

When Clark made it out of the house, “they extinguished me and transported me to UAB.”

Aside from a previous incident in which a roof beam hit his shoulder and he had to go through minor rehab for that, Clark said this is the closest call he has had as a firefighter.

He began volunteering as a firefighter 13 years ago and has been a career firefighter for nine years. He’s employed by the Birmingham Fire Department.

Waid said that this was the worst injury Sumiton Fire and Rescue has had in his 32 years with the department. He described being a firefighter as a “calculated risk,” no matter how much training a person has, because there’s always unknown variables.

“When you’re fighting fires, especially when you’ve got people trapped, you’re wanting to work your way in there and get those folks out,” Waid said. “A lot of people are scared of fire. They’re getting out of the fire and we’re heading into it. You’re always trying to weigh the risks.”

Clark’s burns were mostly on his extremities and torso. Waid credits his injuries being contained to these areas to Clark’s turnout gear.

“If the turnout gear would have failed him, we’d be having a very different conversation right now. That’s what saved his life,” Waid said.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Mayor Petey Ellis told Clark that it’s good to see him up and about and that Sumiton appreciates everything he’s done for the city.

Clark said he was “extremely grateful” to everyone who supported him during his recovery and hospital stay, whether it was moral or financial support.

At the Feb. 21 council meeting, council members passed a motion allowing the city of Sumiton to partially compensate Clark and his family until he could return to work. Clark is married with two young daughters.

“It’s been a blessing from everybody,” he said. “I appreciate the city [of Sumiton] stepping in. And if it wasn’t for the other firefighters coming to visit me, I would’ve been completely insane during my hospital stay. You realize how much of a family these people are.”